Published in the August 2012 Issue August 2012 Ask The Expert

The most valuable part of any boat is the memories that go into building a life on it. Fishing with the kids, sunset cruises with your sweetie and holiday barbequing in the bar are the moments that truly build the foundation of your experience. So it only makes sense that when buying a pontoon boat, you seek out the make and model that will maximize your personal preferences. But that doesn't mean that it takes a blank check at the marine shop to fulfill dreams. We have compiled this list of `toons that give you the most bang for you buck. Here are some boats that are value-driven, which means great amenities at a fair price from some of the top manufacturers in the business.

220 Cozumel From Cypress Cay

Hanging with the family in a Cozumel is the ultimate feeling of relaxation with comfort. In fact, if you buy one, your kids will probably never move out because they will have it made. One of the best things about this `toon is that the changing room comes standard so you don't have to worry about guests not feeling comfortable. This is a large pontoon setup but it comes with the performance of a deck boat, which allows you to have a bigger group of people but not sacrifice speed. Available in two- or three-tube setups, this boat can be customized to suit your individual needs. But certain things, like the Sony Clarity stereo with four speakers and cover, come standard, so when you see the price you don't have to start mentally adding in additional dollars for things that you realistically have to have.

Some other awesome standard features include table with stemware holders, four-step folding ladder and under-deck LED docking lights.

"Cypress Cay pontoons, and especially the Cozumel, are for people who appreciate high quality materials paired with expert engineering and have a passion for family and fun on the water," says Cypress Cay President Brad Anderson. "The Cozumel offers features and amenities for ease of fun for years to come."

Even with all of the standard features, there are some options that make the boat even more appealing for family fun including a rear swimming platform and ski/tow bar. The Cozumel features a solid fiberglass helm station with built-in cooler, extended full fence panels and now it can be ordered with an extra tall, large ski/tow bar with two rope positions for even more on-water fun.

22' Aurora VP From Manitou

Known for comfort and convenience, the Aurora lineup from Manitou gives you the most bang for your buck.

"With the Aurora, you have a boat that you can pull tubes or cruise for the evening all for around $30K," says Manitou Rep Greg VanWagenen. "That is great versatility for your dollar."

The 22 Aurora comes standard with powder coated corner castings, extended starboard chaise furniture and stainless steel cup holders. Some of the best options to really class the boat up include cup holders with blue LED lighting, in-wall docking lights and a barbeque grill. Besides the fun stuff, you can also opt for a Lowrance color Fishfinder with GPS, speed and temp gauges, hour meter and a Manitou custom dock bumper. Starting in 2012, Manitou introduced a new lineup of sports graphics for the exterior of the boat that are so eye-catching you will be the talk of the lake as your cruise by. After you choose the graphics and colors that match your personal style, the same look will be carried through the interior seating vinyl to complete your boat. Another awesome thing about this boat is the hull style. The VP hull is a revolutionary redesign of the traditional pontoon hull and offers greater stability in rougher waters. Basically the VP style has an oversized center tube and lifting strakes, which allow for unparalleled maneuvers by getting rid of flat cornering and banking to the outside. But honestly the best thing about this boat is that it's built by a company that is committed to quality and customer service, which makes any Manitou a trustworthy investment.

221 Gemini From Premier

Part of Premier's Fish & Cruise series, the 221 Gemini is an angler's dream. The aft fishing station with deluxe rear-facing seats and rear corner caddy and rod holders set you up to be in the perfect position to reel in the big one. The aerated livewell will keep your catch alive until you get ready to throw it on the grill.

The layout of this boat was designed so perfectly it could easily accommodate 10 people, yet smaller groups would still be able to feel connected in a close conversation. A large front gate with bow platform makes it easily accessible and under-seat storage with EZ hinges means no gear has to be left behind.

The look of your `toon can be easily customized with different options available for the base and accent colors, which are designed to be mixed and matched at your preference. The Advantage II helm station comes with a Hawk steering wheel that gives the boat a completely stylish, yet easily functional look.

"This boat is loaded with value and includes all of the features that anglers love in a pontoon package," says Premier's President Bob Menne.

Premier is constantly looking at ways to be innovative with industry-first advancements. What does this mean? They never settle with just having a great product. They want to build the greatest and they prove it by fully standing behind their boats with a transferable lifetime warranty on deck, tubes and furniture frames.

Party Barge 220 XP3 From Sun Tracker

It's almost impossible to know where to start when describing the Party Barge 220 XP3 from Sun Tracker because there are so many great things that deserve being mentioned. But since we have to start somewhere, the standard features that live up to the Party Barge name get to be first.

Three all-welded multi-chambered pontoons with performance lifting strakes give you the extra stability required to have a larger number of people onboard. An in-console stereo with dash-mounted remote and four kicker speakers along with the refreshment center that includes sink with on-demand freshwater, food prep area, drink holders and lockable storage drawers are some great party features.

And how could you own a Party Barge 220 XP3 with hosting a party or two? Once your guests arrive, they will be comfortable hanging out because of the two wraparound bow lounges with lumbar support, headrests, lockable lounge arm storage, lockable underseat storage, trash receptacle and drink holders.

"With three

high-performance pontoon logs with lifting strakes, extra-plush lounges throughout and a long list of comfort features, the Party Barge 220 XP3 Regency Edition is the perfect luxury pontoon for families who love water sports as much as they enjoy relaxing in the sun," says Sun Tracker Product Development rep Steve Mason.

To top off all of that, the boat also comes standard with the full width swim platform that includes the non-skid surface and folding boarding ladder, 11-foot polyester bimini top with LED lights and tournament-style ski/tow pylon. On second thought, you may want to avoid hosting parties because you will never be able to get rid of your guests. This boat is truly that great.

22 SSLX From Bennington

There is a reason that Bennington customers are extremely loyal. In 1997, the company began on the twin pillars of hard work and great customer service and these strengths have become a way of life for all associated with the brand. When it comes to its pontoons, specifically the S Series, there are hundreds of options to choose from so that every customer knows he will be floating away in the best possible setup for his individual needs.

Part of what makes this boat such a great value is that the 22-foot SSLX comes standard with bucket helm chair with side pivot and adjustable slider, deep-step stern boarding ladder, fiberglass console with sterling gauges and a playpen cover.

High performance carpet also comes standard, which is a huge plus for those who spend extended time on the boat. If you want to add on a few options to fit more of a fishing lifestyle, there is a livewell with a bait bucket, additional rod holders and snap-in carpet over a full vinyl floor available. When building its `toons, Bennington only uses the best materials to make the most solid, quiet riding boats on the water. Part of this is that all rail panels have a resilient sealing strip to ensure a rattle-free ride, but the other part is the overall craftsmanship that goes into each individual pontoon.


23' SunLounger TT From JC Manufacturing

Have members in your family unit that can't be contained and need constant entertainment? This `toon is your answer. The SunLounger TT from JC Manufacturing was specifically built for families continuously on the go. Available in 23-, 25- and 27-foot models with several color options including classic white, black, burgundy or blue, this boat comes standard with a ski/tow bar.

The 23-foot model can hold a whopping 45 gallons of gas and approximately 15 people, which equals the true definition of a party boat.

"This model has great appeal to the sandbar crowd and can convert into a great boat to go skiing and tubing behind," says JC rep Chris Hackleman. "With the 15-person passenger rating, the more the merrier is the boat motto."

The standard features are too numerous to list but here's a quick overview: moveable gate seat, aluminum bottom skin, CMD7 Clarion CD with four speakers and a 10-foot Sunbrella bimini top. Can it get any better? Doubtful. Looking at popular options, you could consider adding courtesy rope lighting, iPod adapter, raised helm station or a plethora of other amenities.

Plus the rear lounging area is a safe place for kids because of the high-back lounges. The new softer foam used in the stern is perfect for seating while cruising and can be extended out for comfortable sunbathing. One of the most self-sufficient pontoons builders, JC Manufacturing makes all their own major components, including the rail systems, upholstery, pontoon tubes and bimini tops.

2285 RL from Hampton


The classy, more conservative-looking version of PlayCraft is its Hampton line. Built with all different kinds of people in mind, Hampton 2285 RL is an extremely quality pontoon with an elegant feel. It comes standard with an L-shaped furniture layout with snack table, reclining captain's chair with bolster seat and plush marine patterned carpet. The 25-inch diameter pontoons with double welded front splash guards on the nose cones have a limited 20-year warranty.

Some other standard features that are worth mentioning include LED docking, courtesy and navigational lights, custom fiberglass console with tachometer, speedometer, fuel gauge, voltmeter, horn, 12-volt outlet and windshield.

If you know this is the boat for you, you might want to consider adding some options because a pontoon as well built as this one is probably going to last a long time. Adding the optional ski/tow bar, mooring cover, cooler and non-skid flooring in the rear-entry and swim platform areas will make this a boat that has every bell and whistle imaginable.

If speed is what you're after, the performance package is for you. This package means adding a third toon, lifting strakes and aluminum underskin. With several color packages to choose from, including onyx, wine, cobalt and pearl, you surely will be able to find a look that complements your lifestyle. The great thing about a 22-foot pontoon is that it's big enough for the whole family, yet still easily maneuvers through the water. So if you're planning an early morning fishing trip, a lazy afternoon floating around, a lively day of tubing or just a jaunt around your lake, the Hampton line was made for you.

Mandalay 8525 Port From Sylvan

The entire Mandalay series from Sylvan was built with luxury along with performance in mind. The luxury is easy to define. The 8525 Port model comes standard with high-end UV stabilized, marine-grade vinyl that meticulously covers pillow top furniture with retractable armrests. The bow has spacious fiberglass countertops with pull-out cutting boards, LED lighting and a towel rack. Plus you can add an optional refrigerator. Some other notable standard features include a raised fiberglass helm, GPS, walk-in changing room, extended swim platform and 10-foot bimini top.

Now let's talk about performance. The most exceptional thing about Sylvan pontoons is that they operate with Revolutionary Planing Technology V-shaped pontoons. Above the water line, RPT tubes are shaped like traditional tubes but the V shape below displaces less water, which in turn creates less resistance and drag so your `toon can go faster with less horsepower. Paired with .060 aluminum underskin liner and hydraulic steering, this `toon will keep you planing across the water instead of pushing through it.

"Our setup gives you the advantage of a three-pontoon boat with a two-tube configuration. This helps keeps the price down, but not compromise performance," says Sylvan rep Steve Huber. "People have tried to copy it, but they can't duplicate it."

And the very best thing? Besides a smoother and drier ride, this setup allows for greater fuel efficiency so your wallet won't be aching at the pump. Remember, you can only find RPT on a Sylvan pontoon. And why not buy a Sylvan? They have proven themselves time and time again since their inception in the late 1940s, when the company was founded near Sylvan Lake in Wolcottville, Ind.

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